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The tiniest serpent

The smallest species of snake ever discovered lives on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

The new species is called Leptotyphlops carlae.

The new species is called Leptotyphlops carlae.

Hedges

It may look like a little worm, but a newly discovered creature has earned a spot in the record books: It is the smallest species of snake known on Earth. Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania State University in University Park found the tiny serpent on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Snakes of the new species average just 100 millimeters long. That’s a little less than 4 inches, or about the length of a typical computer mouse. The tiny creature belongs to a group called threadsnakes, which already had some pretty small species. The new one beat the old record (held by another type of threadsnake) by just a few millimeters.

Several features separate the new snake from its threadsnake cousins. It has stripes from its eyes to its tail, for one thing. It also has a narrow head and a unique scale pattern. Finally, its DNA confirms that it deserves a category of its own.

Hedges gave a new name to the new species after studying five adult Barbados threadsnakes. One of the group was a female that will become the species’ reference specimen. That means that scientists will use her to represent the species as a comparison for future discoveries. The little lady turned up in a patch of forest of the eastern side of Barbados in June 2006.

After further inspection, Hedges found that the snake carried a single egg in her body. Animals that are especially small tend to give birth to just one offspring at a time instead of to a large litter. That single offspring tends to be fairly large compared to its mother.

Blair Hedges has discovered other tiny creatures, such as this tiny lizard.

Blair Hedges has discovered other tiny creatures, such as this tiny lizard.

Hedges

In the past, Hedges has discovered other creatures of extreme size, including a frog that is smaller than a dime and the smallest known lizard.

Hedges named the new snake Leptotyphlops carlae to honor his wife Carla Ann Hass. You might wonder how you’d feel if someone gave your name to a snake. For a snake-lover, the gesture is perhaps the biggest compliment of all!

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